Fort Kent native donates home for biathletes in training

Posted Feb. 11, 2011, at 12:49 a.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — A couple of years ago, Fort Kent native and outdoorswoman Phyllis Jalbert took a look at the Maine Winter Sports Center program in her hometown and decided only one thing was missing.

“I was having a conversation with somebody, and we were talking about how we have a venue and we have the trails,” Jalbert said this week from the 10th Mountain Lodge where she is watching the International Biathlon Union World Cup action. “The only piece missing to make it an Olympic-type training center was housing for the athletes.”

Skiers training with MWSC in northern Maine have typically lived on-site at the 10th Mountain Lodge or bunked with relatives and friends around the area.

“I said this is easy,” she recalled. “I’m a Realtor. Let’s buy a house.”

Jalbert and her late husband Michael Klahr did well investing in and managing real estate in New York.

Last winter when Jalbert was in Fort Kent for the Can Am sled dog races — her family sponsors the Willard Jalbert Can Am 60-mile race in memory of her late father — she looked around for available housing.

What she found was a single-story home on Second Avenue within walking distance of both the 10th Mountain ski trails and downtown Fort Kent.

Jalbert purchased the house and arranged for MWSC to hold a 20-year lease on the property.

“It was in the right location,” Jalbert said. “It’s on the backside of the ski hill so they can essentially walk out the door and get right on the trails.”

But the proximity to town was just as important to Jalbert.

“As far as I’m concerned, a big part of what the Maine Winter Sports Center is all about is integrating the students with the town,” she said.

Seth Hubbard, MWSC biathlon coach, agrees.

“With this house now we have athletes living in and interacting with the community,” Hubbard said. “That goes a long way with the athletes serving as examples to the area’s youth.”

That visibility will make it easier to recruit future biathletes and Nordic competitors from among the area’s young people, Hubbard said.

“Having this residence for the athletes is a huge asset for the Maine Winter Sports Center programs,” Hubbard said. “It’s almost hard to sum up the importance of the ability to provide stable housing for training athletes.”

The first to move into the Jalbert Biathlete Residence were Maine Winter Sports Center team members Andrea Mayo and Katrina Howe.

“It’s fantastic to have this place to come home to,” Mayo said. “It’s way more than we could have asked for.”

When Jalbert purchased the house last year, she took one look at the interior and decided some work needed to be done before any athletes moved in.

“It really needed a total redo,” she said. “It was built in the 1970s, and there had been a lot of deferred maintenance.”

Jalbert contacted her friend and designer Heidi Gerquest of Freeport who agreed to do the job pro bono.

For her part, Gerquest took one look at the 1970s decor — which included shag carpets, faux brickwork and a stucco stalactite ceiling — and went to work with the help of Jalbert’s cousin and contractor Jim Marquis and the athletes themselves.

“We helped take out the rugs and remove that ceiling,” Mayo said. “No one was sorry to see those stalactites go, [and] I feel that is something homeowners really don’t want to look back on.”

Much of the finish work was completed while Mayo was traveling around New England and Canada competing.

“When I got back and saw what they had done, I could not wipe the smile off of my face,” she said. “It’s really awesome.”

The house has five bedrooms, each with room for two athletes who can live there rent-free.

For Jalbert, who also sponsors the MWSC’s Jalbert Youth Ski Program, it’s all about doing whatever she can to get young people interested in the outdoors.

“I want to get kids away from the computers and outside enjoying the resources we have around here,” she said. “I love the outdoors.”

Jalbert, a registered Maine Guide, grew up in a family of guides and spent much of her youth on and around the Allagash River and in the Northern Maine Woods.

“I grew up skiing and snowshoeing with my dad,” she said. “In the winter he’d take us trekking on the Allagash River.”

The public can get a firsthand look at the new athletes’ residence at 46 Second Ave. during an open house from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Mayo is looking forward to showing off her new home and hopes Jalbert knows how much she and the other athletes appreciate it.

“Why use a million words when two will do?” Mayo said. “We all just want to tell her ‘thank you.’”

Fort Kent native donates home for biathletes in trainingBY JULIA BAYLYSPECIAL TO THE NEWSFORT KENT — A couple of years ago, Fort Kent native and outdoorswoman Phyllis Jalbert took a look at the Maine Winter Sports Center program in her hometown and decided only one thing was missing.“I was having a conversation with somebody, and we were talking about how we have a venue and we have the trails,” Jalbert said this week from the 10th Mountain Lodge where she is watching the International Biathlon Union World Cup action. “The only piece missing to make it an Olympic-type training center was housing for the athletes.”Skiers training with MWSC in northern Maine have typically lived on-site at the 10th Mountain Lodge or bunked with relatives and friends around the area.“I said this is easy,” she recalled. “I’m a Realtor. Let’s buy a house.”Jalbert and her late husband Michael Klahr did well investing in and managing real estate in New York.Last winter when Jalbert was in Fort Kent for the Can Am sled dog races — her family sponsors the Willard Jalbert Can Am 60-mile race in memory of her late father — she looked around for available housing.What she found was a single-story home on Second Avenue within walking distance of both the 10th Mountain ski trails and downtown Fort Kent.Jalbert purchased the house and arranged for MWSC to hold a 20-year lease on the property.“It was in the right location,” Jalbert said. “It’s on the backside of the ski hill so they can essentially walk out the door and get right on the trails.”But the proximity to town was just as important to Jalbert.“As far as I’m concerned, a big part of what the Maine Winter Sports Center is all about is integrating the students with the town,” she said.Seth Hubbard, MWSC biathlon coach, agrees.“With this house now we have athletes living in and interacting with the community,” Hubbard said. “That goes a long way with the athletes serving as examples to the area’s youth.”That visibility will make it easier to recruit future biathletes and Nordic competitors from among the area’s young people, Hubbard said.“Having this residence for the athletes is a huge asset for the Maine Winter Sports Center programs,” Hubbard said. “It’s almost hard to sum up the importance of the ability to provide stable housing for training athletes.”The first to move into the Jalbert Biathlete Residence were Maine Winter Sports Center team members Andrea Mayo and Katrina Howe.“It’s fantastic to have this place to come home to,” Mayo said. “It’s way more than we could have asked for.”When Jalbert purchased the house last year, she took one look at the interior and decided some work needed to be done before any athletes moved in.“It really needed a total redo,” she said. “It was built in the 1970s, and there had been a lot of deferred maintenance.”Jalbert contacted her friend and designer Heidi Gerquest of Freeport who agreed to do the job pro bono.For her part, Gerquest took one look at the 1970s decor — which included shag carpets, faux brickwork and a stucco stalactite ceiling — and went to work with the help of Jalbert’s cousin and contractor Jim Marquis and the athletes themselves.“We helped take out the rugs and remove that ceiling,” Mayo said. “No one was sorry to see those stalactites go, [and] I feel that is something homeowners really don’t want to look back on.”Much of the finish work was completed while Mayo was traveling around New England and Canada competing.“When I got back and saw what they had done, I could not wipe the smile off of my face,” she said. “It’s really awesome.”The house has five bedrooms, each with room for two athletes who can live there rent-free.For Jalbert, who also sponsors the MWSC’s Jalbert Youth Ski Program, it’s all about doing whatever she can to get young people interested in the outdoors.“I want to get kids away from the computers and outside enjoying the resources we have around here,” she said. “I love the outdoors.”Jalbert, a registered Maine Guide, grew up in a family of guides and spent much of her youth on and around the Allagash River and in the Northern Maine Woods.“I grew up skiing and snowshoeing with my dad,” she said. “In the winter he’d take us trekking on the Allagash River.”The public can get a firsthand look at the new athletes’ residence at 46 Second Ave. during an open house from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday.Mayo is looking forward to showing off her new home and hopes Jalbert knows how much she and the other athletes appreciate it.“Why use a million words when two will do?” Mayo said. “We all just want to tell her ‘thank you.’”

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